Flying Eye Hospital Nurse Xiao Ying Liu pictured on our training project in Barbados

Orbis Nurse Xiao Ying Helps Colleagues Around the World Protect Themselves Against Coronavirus

April 2020

Xiao Ying is a nurse from a small village in Wuhan, China. While Wuhan became synonymous with the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 Xiao Ying has been using her infection control expertise, and years of teaching experience gained on the Flying Eye Hospital, to help colleagues around the world protect themselves against the virus.

In a few months, Xiao Ying Liu will celebrate a full decade of working as a staff nurse on board the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. By now, training nurses from around the world has become a familiar task, but what she could never have anticipated is that the knowledge she has been sharing would become especially valuable in the time of coronavirus.

Sterilization and infection control are important aspects of what we always teach nurses on the Flying Eye Hospital, but these skills have come to feel more important than ever now,” Xiao Ying says.

Recently, a nurse she trained reached out to her to ask how she should prepare for a coronavirus outbreak in her country, and it shone a light on the need to make sure nurses everywhere have access to the knowledge they need to safely care for their patients while also protecting themselves.

She has since teamed up with friends who are nurses on the frontlines to put together an article on the role of nursing infection control in hospital settings during COVID-19 that will soon be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. The tips cover everything from the proper use of personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as PPE, to setting up hospital zones to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

Nurse Xiao Ying Liu training nurses in infection control globally from her home in Wuhan, China

Xiao Ying has been teaching vital infection control skills with nurses globally from home

Sterilization and infection control are important aspects of what we always teach nurses on the Flying Eye Hospital, but these skills have come to feel more important than ever now

Xiao Ying Liu

Staff Nurse, Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

Of course, the collaboration on writing the article has all been done remotely. Like so many people around the world, Xiao Ying is working from home right now to social distance and curb the spread of the virus. But what has become a new normal only recently for many of us has been her reality for some time now.

That’s because Xiao Ying is based in Wuhan, China, where the world saw its very first cases of coronavirus. She remembers coming home from Ghana in December, following her last Orbis program of 2019. Everything still seemed normal then, but by the end of the month, she had started to hear news about people coming down with an unknown source of pneumonia. Then on January 23, the day before Chinese New Year, Wuhan went into lockdown, and everything changed.

I have friends who are nurses on the frontlines. The circumstances they faced early in the outbreak here are like what many health workers around the world are facing now: working long hours in very difficult circumstances with limited supplies of PPE,” she explains. “The saddest thing I heard was learning that some of my friends had started to wear adult diapers to avoid going through a change of PPE when they used the restroom, thus saving supplies. They are such great people. To protect others, they sacrifice a lot.”

Xiao Ying is used to working from home between Orbis missions, so in some ways, being home has felt familiar to her. “I’ve been very busy with work from Orbis. The time has flown because I feel I’m being useful,” she says. In addition to her article on infection control, she has also been working with her fellow Orbis nurses to expand the training materials available for when they’re back on the Flying Eye Hospital.

Orbis Nurse Xiao Ying Liu wearing a protective mask in Wuhan, China amid Covid_19 global outbreak

Xiao Ying's advice: social distance, wear a mask, and follow the rules

Xiao Ying knows firsthand just how much quality training can change the course of a nurse’s career; she was a recipient of training on the Flying Eye Hospital many years before she ever became a staff nurse on the plane.

She had been working for five years at an Orbis partner hospital in Wuhan when she learned that the Flying Eye Hospital was coming for a visit. After two weeks of training on board, she says, “I was dreaming that maybe one day I could do the same thing.

There was just one catch: she didn’t speak English. But she was so motivated that she began studying in China, then spent two years working at a hospital in Saudi Arabia, mainly because English was the primary language spoken there, and it was a chance to further hone her skills. When she returned home, she was newly confident in her English-speaking abilities and immediately applied to work at Orbis.

I feel it’s very meaningful work that we do – to train all eye care professionals, not just nurses,” says Xiao Ying.

Gallery: Nurse Xiao Ying's wonderful work with Orbis

While things are gradually going back to normal in Wuhan – public transportation has reopened, and employees whose responsibilities can’t be done remotely have been allowed to return to work – Xiao Ying has begun to worry about her friends around the world as the virus spreads globally.

For those in areas just beginning to feel the effects of the coronavirus, her advice shows she’s a true-blue nurse: social distance, wear a mask, and follow the rules. She also recommends that people protect their mental health by seeking out counseling tools that may be available and talking with friends and family.

Beyond the best practices, she hopes that the world will find encouragement in the progress that’s being made in Wuhan.

Personally, I have been very positive and tried my best to educate my family and friends on the importance of staying calm,” she says. “We must keep the faith because we will win this battle against coronavirus. There’s a good example of that here in Wuhan. We’re not completely there yet, but I’m very happy to see how far we’ve come.

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